Friday, 22 December 2006

The Devil has Seven Faces

Despite having two solid genre leads in Carroll Baker and George Hilton; reliable supporting players including Luciano Pizoggi and a decent Stelvio Cipriani soundtrack with some gorgeous Nora Orlandi vocalism, this old-fashioned, Hitchcockian giallo from 1971 ultimately fails to deliver anything special.

Most of the blame for this can likely to be apportioned director and co-writer Osvaldo Civriani. His direction lacks the required style and instead serves up a surfeit of lame humour and some all-too-obviously speeded up chase sequences.

Unlike the dodgy back projection and other effects work of some of Hitchcock's later films, however, it seems difficult to pass this off as a self-conscious modernist “laying bare the device”.
Civriani and Toni Carvi's writing, meanwhile, manages the unusual distinction of being both too clever and too stupid for its own good, thanks to a combination of more subplots and characters than it is easy to keep a handle on and an all-too-obvious twist ending.

Or, deciding between Hitchcock's “suspense” and “surprise” alternatives, they made the latter, wrong choice.

Baker plays Julie Harrison, an English-born translator now living in Amsterdam, who finds herself being stalked. She goes to see her lawyer, David Barton, and reveals that her near-identical twin Mary – the only difference between them their hair colour, Julie being a blonde and Mary a brunette a la Vertigo – has contacted her from home, saying her life is in danger. Leaving Barton's, Julie is attacked in the street but saved through the interventions of another of Barton's clients, Hilton's racing car driver Tony Shane.

That night they are menaced at Julie's house by two more thugs. As luck would have it, however, a brace of motorcycle cops pull up outside, curious about the poorly parked car outside. A gun battle and chase ensues, affording Julie and Tony the opportunity to escape.

As Pigozzi's insurance company agent gets involved, we learn that Mary – or should that be Marnie or Marion (Crane) – stole a million pound diamond from a maharaja.

Can we say McGuffin...


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

I have an old uncut lbx Fletcher/Technofilm pre-cert of this back in my parents attic in London that i'd totally forgotten about,i was back there just over a month ago and wish i'd dug it out now!I haven't seen it in years but ,like you,i remember i wasn't to impressed with it to start with.I suppose i better burn it to disc and give it another chance next time i'm home.

K H Brown said...

I can't remember where my DVD-R came from - this was an archive review, as it were - but the one thing I'm sure of is that the film was pretty 'meh' despite my liking Baker and Hilton.

Ellen Mc. said...

Just got the film through today - will give it a viewing and post a comment. Interested to see the Hitchcock refs. I must hook out my Carol Baker autobiography to reread her comments on being in Italy, where she was invited after her nasty divorce. I've only seen "Baba Yaga" and "The Harem" so far, the latter was a complete surprise!